Letters & Opinion

School Systems Should be Built on a Solid Foundation: Perspective #1

Dr. Claudia J. Fevrier
By Dr. Claudia J. Fevrier

It is time for the education policy world to learn a lesson from “The Three Little Pigs.” To withstand the attack of the big, bad wolf, one pig built a house of straw, the second built a house of wood, and the third built a house of bricks. All three undertook the same project and had the same goal. However, they experienced vastly different results. Two houses and their occupants sadly succumbed to the wolf. Only the house of brick remained standing as a tribute to that pig’s foresight and hard work (Westervelt & Schwerner, 2011).

The writers highlight the significance of a solid foundation by analogy with the familiar story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

The foundation is what supports and bears the weight of an entire house. Without it, the house would sink into the ground. In terms of school systems, the foundation can be viewed from the perspective of the school curriculum. Pratt (1997) asserts that curriculum is analogous to the set of blueprints from which a house is constructed. Hence, it can be viewed as a blueprint (plan) for instruction. In other words, the curriculum is what supports and drives the teaching-learning experiences in school. It is, therefore, the foundation for instruction.

Further, the author explains that before an architect begins to draw blueprints for a building, they must ask some basic questions about the uses and purposes of the building. Questions of basic purpose are helpful to architects and are equally helpful to curriculum planners. Additionally, perhaps the most general response one can give to such questions in education is that the function of curriculum is to enhance human wellbeing. Let us examine what this means in practical terms.

Building a strong foundation for a house requires more than just digging into the ground and pouring the concrete in it. It has to be properly tailored to the site, which involves taking into account the geology, soil conditions, water table, and even the backfill (Smith, 2022). Similarly, designing an effective curriculum for instructional practices, learning experiences, and students’ performance assessment requires more than just cognition–knowledge and intellectual skills in the four core school subjects, such as language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

For a curriculum to be effective, it must adapt its educational services and activities to meet the needs of modern and dynamic society. It must meet the challenges of times and make schooling/education more responsive to the clientele it serves. It will be remembered that its overall function is to enhance human wellbeing.

Meeting the challenges of times in hopes of enhancing human wellbeing necessarily dictates the design of a well-balanced curriculum. A good, effective, well-balanced curriculum is one that also takes the other side of the coin into consideration. In this light, Pratt (1990) refers to an approach that includes significant aspects of human personality–“the moral, the aesthetic, the spiritual” (p. 13). The emotional aspect is equally important.

Let us view the moral, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic aspects. In order for the school system in Saint Lucia and that of the wider Caribbean to reflect a strong curriculum base/foundation in the functions of the school itself, home, community and society at large, its curriculum design and development must also provide moral, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic guidance to the instructional practices, learning experiences, and students’ performance assessment. The differences among students in terms of their moral, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic behaviour will depend on how their parents have taught them at home. In terms of the moral and spiritual guidance, teachers must build on the home training and help each student to obey the laws of God and of their country. It is the teacher’s duty to help students make needed positive changes in their lives, and to develop qualities that foster true peace and harmony, such as kindness, love, patience, respect and appreciation for other people’s lives and properties, and the like, through different modalities, for example, auditory (story telling).

With regard to emotional differences among students in the classroom, teachers would notice that some students are quiet and calm, while others are very excited and hyperactive. Others are easily upset and cry, while others lose their temper very quickly. Teachers must encourage students to develop self-control; to control their behaviour that could be detrimental to themselves and others in the near and distant future, implementing well planned real life situations, for example. Importantly, teachers must remember that emotions are not entirely bad; they can be used in a sensible way.

From an aesthetic standpoint, philosopher, Maxine Green (2001), posits that aesthetic education requires students to look through the lenses of various ways of seeing, knowing, and feeling in a conscious manner. Students need to become keen observers of the world around them. When schools do not include the arts in the curriculum, or when taught haphazardly, with no meaningful study to accompany them, young people miss out on an essential component of a well-rounded education.

The Social Transformation group of scholars, since in the 1980s, viewed schools as potential agents for the reform of society. David Purpel states: “I continue to have the faith that schools…can actually contribute to the creation of a more loving, more just, saner world” (Purpel, 1989, p. x).

Purpel’s articulation of ideas indicating curriculum reform to include aspects of human personality to promote human wellbeing obliges us to critically examine the CXC Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) Standards Revised Handbook (curriculum), which now feeds the Saint Lucian school system. We need to examine whether the CPEA curriculum distinctly articulates the study of human personality as it does for the four core school subjects. A negative response (NO!) could indicate that the CXC’s CPEA curriculum is limited in its outlook, and is not very interested in promoting the wellbeing of students and Caribbean societies at large.

In light of the educational discourse, a critical examination of the CPEA curriculum does not look very promising. A curriculum that is not well-rounded or well-balanced does not constitute a solid foundation for school systems. Indeed, an indispensable part is missing–study of human personality as a core subject area to promote human wellbeing–for the greater good of Saint Lucia and other Caribbean societies.

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